Trea Turner’s 0 for 5, four strikeout game on Monday left the Washington Nationals’ 27-year-old shortstop with a .205/.256/.231 line in the last 10 games, going back to the start of the recently-completed homestand.
Turner had been held hitless in five of those 10 games, and his four-K day was the first four-strikeout game for the infielder since way back in 2018. So what was going on?
“He’s chasing,” manager Davey Martinez said after Monday’s 5-3 loss in Atlanta, which saw Braves’ starter Charlie Morton flummox Turner, striking him out with breaking balls in three of their four head-to-head matchups.
“He’s chasing,” Martinez reiterated. “They’re throwing him a lot of breaking balls. And he’s just chasing outside of the zone. He’s got to get the ball back in the zone.”
Turner’s frustration, his manager said, with the pitch selection he’s seen, has him expanding his zone instead of taking walks when opposing pitchers try to avoid throwing him strikes.
“As we all know, he’s a good hitter,” Martinez explained, “... but he is leading off and he’s got to get the ball in the strike zone. If they want to walk him, like I tell all these other guys, take your walks. But he’s got to get the ball in the strike zone.”
Turner’s 5.5 BB% after 50 games, was significantly lower than his 8.5% in 2020 and his 7.5% BB% in his career.
His K% was up too, from 13.9% in 2020, and 18.3% in his career, to 20.6% in a total of 218 plate appearances after Monday’s game.
“When he takes his walks, it’s a double, you know, so he’s got to understand what he’s really good at up there,” Martinez said. “Because he’s really good. When that ball is in the strike zone, he’s typically really good, so he’s just got to get the ball in the strike zone and work counts, 2-0, 2-1, 1-0, it’s a dIfferent story. He’s got to get the breaking balls up, get them in the strike zone if they’re going to throw him that many, and just be ready to hit the fastball. We talk about this all the time ... it’s a lot easier to make adjustments to breaking balls as opposed to a fastball. He’s a little late on fastballs because I think he’s real conscious about the breaking balls right now.”
Turner lamented the fact that he didn’t see many pitches in the zone in Atlanta, and when he did, he missed or fouled them off.
“I got like one pitch to hit in each of my at bats, basically, for the most part, and just fouled it off, missed it, so that happens more often than not if you miss the pitch you need to hit in the at bat,” he explained. “Whether it’s the first one or the second one, wherever it comes in the at bat, if you miss it then it’s going to be a tough at bat, and [Morton] was good today.”
Turner seemed to say it was less about the pitch selection he’s seen recently causing him problems, than the fact that there isn’t much of anything in the zone.
“Just getting something in the middle of the zone as opposed to the edge for me,” he said.
“Today the only pitches in the middle of the zone were the fastballs, so if tomorrow they’re breaking balls I gotta hit the breaking balls.
“Today they were fastballs and then the pitches on the edge of the zone are tough to hit in general, so when he’s locating breaking balls, like I said, it’s going to be tough.”
Turner, of course, isn’t the only National who was struggling at the plate, and the team as a whole had lost five in a row after Monday’s defeat, and six of seven games overall.
Since the Nationals battled back from a rough start to the season in April and got to 12-12 on May 2nd, the club was 9-17 after dropping the series opener with the Braves.
Turner tried to keep things in perspective when he was asked about the frustrating situation the team finds itself in right now.
“I think it’s — I feel like I talk to you guys after losses all the time, so I feel like broken record,” Turner told reporters. “But it’s perspective. It’s how do you want to approach tomorrow. Like I said, I don’t care what happened yesterday, I don’t care if we lost 10 in a row or we’ve won 10 in a row, that doesn’t help us for tomorrow. We’ve got to move on and we’ve got to play better. We got to keep competing. It’s a long season.
“It’s the broken record of 1-0 but that’s the only thing that really matters. When you can buy into that it makes winning better and losing easier to accept I guess, because you can move on to tomorrow and get ready for that game. So, a lot of baseball left, got to keep going and just be positive and keep churning.”
Is the tough stretch the team is in right now, with all the talk of bad BABIP luck and hits not falling in, any different from the previous runs of bad luck they’ve fought through?
“It’s much the same,” Turner said. “I feel like we’ve hit balls well right at people.
“Haven’t gotten too many bloop hits. I don’t know. I think if you look at it like Joe [Ross] got a hit tonight with a man in scoring position, I don’t know if that’s lucky, so [Kyle] Schwarber hit a great ball and flew out to the warning track. Sometimes I think it just comes down to getting that home run or that timely hit and it feels like the other team has done that more than us this year.
“I feel like we’ve hit the ball well. Starlin [Castro] lined out with two men on tonight, hit it like 100-something miles an hour to the left fielder.
“So I think it will turn eventually, we just got to keep going. Keep taking those swings, because we’re close.”
On Tuesday night, Turner went 3 for 5 with two runs scored with his hits three of 14 total by the team min an 11-6 win over the Braves.